Los Angeles Theater Review: PREMEDITATION (Los Angeles Theatre Center)

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by Tony Frankel on May 3, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles

NOT PREMEDITATED ENOUGH

Geoffrey Rivas, Lucy Rodriguez, Sal Lopez and Evelina Fernández in PREMEDITATIONDespite playwright Evelina Fernández’ ability to take clichéd problems about marriage and turn them into humorous complaints about men tossing underwear on the floor and women nagging, her divertingly silly but disappointingly trite Premeditation doesn’t elevate past the conceit: A woman hires a hit man to off her husband of 25 years. They meet in a hotel room, but a phone number discovered in the hit man’s pocket at home leads their perspective spouses to suspect that an affair is at hand. When the foursome finally gathers in the Shangri-La hotel room, the simplistic “Marriage ain’t so bad, you just need to dance and say ‘I love you, Babe’” is hardly characteristic of the film noir genre Fernández is attempting to spoof. Equally, the usual suspects—Latino Theater Company actors Sal Lopez, Lucy Rodriguez, Geoffrey Rivas, and especially playwright Fernández—have yet to find the proper balance between parody and authentic characterization (they were also tripping on lines well into the run).

Lucy Rodriguez, Geoffrey Rivas, Evelina Fernández and Sal Lopez in PREMEDITATIONPablo Santiago’s smoky, noirish film images of the characters as others see them are projected onto François-Pierre Couture’s large backdrop, containing two doors and painted to resemble the type of stained walls one would expect in a seedy motel. Los Angeles Theatre Center’s 320-seat Theatre 3 feels like a barn for this intimate show, but Santiago creates mood with effective GOBOed lighting effects that simulate neon. Director José Luis Valenzuela fills the large, stark playing area using rolling 1940’s furniture, with which the actors tango during the scene changes (choreography by Urbanie Lucero). There’s a nuclear amount of smoking, and the use of dry ice and hair spray cans illuminate the constant puffing typical of noir cinema. These clever, often comical devices are particular to inventive director Valenzuela, Fernández’ real-life husband, yet his ability to mine gold from a troubled script, such as his Melancholia, is not in evidence here.

Evelina Fernández and Sal Lopez in PREMEDITATIONFilm noir chestnuts—double-dealing, guns, cynicism, Femme Fatales, shadows, smoke, funny lines, detective work, fedoras, and reflective conversation—are all parodied here, but they don’t jibe with the script, an amalgam of noir, vaudeville, and stand up-type commentary about modern marital squabbles (you always know a script needs filler when topical references such as “Cheetos” and “Dr. Phil” are used). This is yet another 90-minute one-act stretched out from a Saturday Night Live-esque sketch, and all the accessories and accoutrements cannot hide the slender plot. Had there been dialogue at the level of great noir lines such as “She tried sitting on my lap while I was standing up” (The Big Sleep) and “If I knew you were coming I’d have set fire to the place” (The Killers), I probably wouldn’t have become so restless at the halfway point. Without murder, a story, and actors better able to pull off noir, this escapist entertainment is probably best-suited for women who have been married for a quarter-century or so and are too tired to fight. The novelty and intentions are swell, but, to quote Barbara Stanwyck in Clash by Night, “What do you want, Joe, my life history? Here it is in four words: big ideas, small results.”

Sal Lopez and Evelina Fernández in PREMEDITATION

photos by Ed Krieger

Premeditation
Los Angeles Theatre Center
514 South Spring Street
Thurs – Sat at 8:00 pm, Sun at 3:00 pm
scheduled to end on May 11, 2014
EXTENDED to May 18, 2014
for tickets, call (866) 811-4111 or visit www.thelatc.org

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